SAKTI: Portrait of a Dancer
by Jennifer Greene-Gyger

Sakti's career in bellydancing began with a backache. In an effort to find an alternative to her doctor's prescription—Valium—Sakti began taking bellydancing classes as a form of physical therapy. Within two months, her back problems were gone, and her career in dance had begun.

Sakti's experience with Oriental dance has spanned more than 20 years and has taken her around the world. "Oriental dance unites the body, mind and spirit," says Sakti of her passion. "It gives me strength as a woman, and it helps me find my center and self-worth."

Sakti began dancing professionally in the 1970s, shorlly after she started dance therapy. "I joined the dance troupe Sadha, which included dancers, musicians, fireeaters and magicians. We did trance dances and group sword dances and traveled around like gypsies."

After Sadha disbanded, Saktl went to Japan and Taiwan for six months, where she performed in upscale night clubs and five-star hotels. Then she returned to America's Southwest, where, in Austinl, Texas, she performed and taught classes with Bobby Dee. "I settled down in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the next seven years dancing as the headliner at a Moraccan restaurant," says Sakti. "Then I decided to fulfill my childliood dream: to dance in Egypt."

Altllough launching a dancing career in Egypt wasn't easy—Sakti had to deal with dishonest club owners and the difficulties inherent in securing a license and finding reputalble work—things finally settled down, and Sakti's stay in Egypt gradually extended to four years.

"Having a license to dance is mandatory in Egypt, and it can be very difficult for foreigners to find work," says Sakti. "The paperwork can take months, yet without it you can be arrested by the police." Other rules for Egyptian dancers include no flirting, talking or dancing with customers before, during or after a show, covering the stomach with net fabric, and ensuring that skirt slits aren't too far above the knee.

While Sakti saw many dancers perform in Cairo, her most treasured experience involved Egyptian dancer Souhair Zaki. Sakti saw Souhair dance at the Sunset Ship on the Nile. "I was just loving her and sending her positive energy when suddenly she looked at me and held out her hand," says Sakti. "I joined her on the stage and we did a few steps togetller. After she realized I could dance she gave me the stage for seven minutes. At the end we hugged and she said to me 'You-good dancer.' She gave me confidence when I needed it most. That's why I stayed."

After leaving Egypt—for reasons ranging from pollution to high taxes—Sakti returned to America looking for new challenges. She has recently found them in a German film called "Hidden Faces." In her first acting role, Sakti will be portraying herself—a bellydancer—in a Story exploring the dynamics of race and culture.

"So little is said about Oriental dance in the West," says Sakti. "It predates ballet, jazz and modern, yet it gets the least recognition. I want this film to educate people about the ancient art and craft of bellydancing. I want to share its powerful beauty with everyone."

Chiftitelli, Spring 1998, Vol. 1. No. 2


SAKTI RINEK, World-Famous Bellydancer